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Kimmitt, Senor Hold Briefing

Aired November 23, 2003 - 09:15   ET


ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you live to Baghdad right now, where there is a press conference under way. The man that you're looking at right there is Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt. He's talking about the deaths earlier today of at least two U.S. soldiers in Mosul. He says it's under investigation. Let's listen in.
BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS: Ground personnel reported that they saw, quote, "two SAM launches or possible rockets launch from south of the air field," unquote, and hit one of the aircraft. The aircraft landed safely.

Air field personnel noted extensive damage to the left wing of the aircraft. All three air crew are safe and received no injuries. The United States Air Force is heading the investigation team.

In the end, all Anvar province, the 82nd Airborne Division conducted 10 raids, two search and attack operations, and 176 patrols, including 12 joint patrols with the Iraqi border guard and Iraqi police.

During these operations, one enemy was killed, one enemy was wounded and 39 enemy personnel were captured. The Latifia (ph) police chief and two other police officers were killed when the car they were riding in was attacked with small arms fire in Mamudia (ph). Both the police departments are investigating the incident.

Coalition forces conduct -- continued phase two of operation Rifle Blitz, capturing 35 personnel and confiscating various small arms weapons. Among those captured were those holding 12 Syrian passports and one Egyptian passport. Iraqi police accompanied the search elements during each operation.

Civil affairs personnel are coordinating with members from the senate (ph) of clans from Palua (ph) to include the senate (ph) in the reconstruction efforts in their area. In multinational division central south coalition forces conducted 118 patrols and 11 joint patrols, detaining seven personnel.

A patrol detained 11 Iraqi policemen when they attempted to accept a bribe near Badra (ph) on the Iranian border yesterday.

Also yesterday, 50 Iraqi civil defense corps soldiers graduated in Al-Kut (ph), bringing the area's ICDC battalion to full strength, with 792 personnel.

Multinational division southeast, the division conducted 260 patrols, a series of cordon and search operations, detained eight individuals in the past 24 hours. Coalition soldiers in the zone discovered a weapons cache with 3,000 hand grenades -- correction, 300 hand grenades, 33 82 mm mortar rounds and nine fuses.

That concludes the operational briefing. We'll be glad to answer your questions.

QUESTION: Hi, Jill Carol (ph) (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You mentioned the soldiers in Mosul were killed involving gunfire. Does that mean they were shot? There have been widespread reports they were stabbed or their throats were slit. Can you give us -- shoot down those reports or give us a little more information on what happened?

KIMMITT: Again, it is our policy that we do not go into the specific details on injuries sustained by soldiers, and just as a matter of good taste, we would suggest the media does the same.

QUESTION: Sorry, just trying to verify -- find out how -- what happened. Because if they were shot or stabbed, that's all we need is just find out the basic information about how they were killed.

KIMMITT: We have an ongoing investigation and we're not going to get ghoulish about this. Next question.


QUESTION: What kind of advice would you give to people thinking about traveling to Iraq, in light of the events over the past weekend? Is it safe to come here? What's the best way to travel?

SENOR: It is -- this is a dangerous environment. Terrorists are targeting Iraq. We've been saying all along that Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror, and with that comes risks. The terrorists and the enemies of freedom want to intimidate everybody. Iraqis, coalition forces, military forces, civilians, reporters. Those who are now engaged in commerce and investing in Iraq. They are looking to intimidate everybody from having a role in new Iraq, and we have to take that into consideration. You have to take that into consideration, just like you have to do with the list of cities that have been hit by terror attacks since September 11, whether it's New York or Washington or Istanbul or Bali. These are considerations we have to keep in mind.

Iraq is a dangerous place. As I said, it is the central front in the war on terror.


QUESTION: Hi. John Hendron (ph) with "The L.A. Times." Will there be any changes in procedures at the airport as a result of this strike, or restriction on airlines coming in or added protection, any big changes as a result of the strike yesterday?

SENOR: Military air travel will continue. There is a hold right now on the Royal Jordanian and the DHL civilian aircraft that's coming in, pending further investigation. QUESTION: Is that -- can I just follow up -- is that a hold placed by the military or voluntarily by the airlines themselves?

SENOR: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Who issued that hold?


QUESTION: Thank you.

SENOR: Yeah.

QUESTION: Ollie Guerin (ph), BBC. General question, how worried are you about the attrition against the troops and the fact that in spite of all of the big operations and the heavy firepower, you are still having soldiers being killed around the country every other day?

KIMMITT: We're not worried in the least. In fact, what we have demonstrated time after time, after every engagement with the enemy, we prevail. We have nothing at this point that causes us to be concerned. Military -- this is an enemy that cannot defeat us militarily, and in engagement after engagement we see the enemy breaking off, running away, and militarily, their attacks are becoming more and more insignificant to us against coalition forces.

QUESTION: But your men are still dying.

KIMMITT: Our men are performing a service. Our soldiers from both America and all the coalition nations are here to restore a free Iraq. We are here to provide a safe and secure environment and to maintain a safe and secure environment so that we can take this country and provide essential services, restoration of the economy and passing the governance to the people of Iraq.

KOPPEL: You've been listening to Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt of the U.S. military and Dan Senor, an adviser to the civilian administrator, L. Paul Bremer, there in Baghdad. This is the regular operational briefing. Today's briefing ahead of time, a lot of the questions focusing, as you could hear there, on an attack, actually there were two separate attacks on U.S. forces today in Iraq, one in Mosul, involving two U.S. soldiers who were killed, according to the brigadier general, by gunfire.

But, again, there are questions surrounding that. There are other reports out there suggesting that the two soldiers may have also had their throats slit. That has not been confirmed by CNN, but it's the reason that reporters are being so dogged in their questioning.

There have also been attacks in the last couple of days. Just yesterday at Baghdad Airport, you had -- or rather on Friday -- you had a flight out of Baghdad -- excuse me, I want to correct myself, it was Saturday, losing track of the days here. It was Saturday, a DHL cargo plane was flying out of Baghdad Airport and was attacked with a shoulder-fired missile. So air traffic, at least commercial air traffic into Baghdad and out of it is on hold right now. We'll have more for you as we get it and we'll be updating you throughout the day.


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